Growth stories, In the Eye of, Industry

A day with Gantner: a one-stop solution

  • 19 May 2021

  • Expansion

In this episode of Entrepreneurial Journeys, we speak to Elmar Hartmann, Chief Executive Officer of Gantner.

Imagine leaving your home and locking your door, and unlocking your bicycle or boarding the metro, all with the same digital key. Then you enter your office building, buy a cup of coffee at the canteen, put your belongings in a locker and find an available hot desk — again, using the same, single key or data carrier. At lunchtime, you might go workout at the gym, and later that evening, maybe you’ll visit a museum — all the while, still using the same data carrier to unlock each experience for you.

That's what it's like to spend a day with Gantner, an Austria-based tech-manufacturing company offering cashless payment, access control, ticketing, and software solutions.

Ardian invested in 2016, and since then, Gantner has become a technology leader in Europe by doubling its revenues and its employees. In this episode, we speak to Elmar Hartmann, Gantner’s CEO, about how a company that started as a small electronic repair business has become a one-stop solution shop for clients around the world across the fitness, public attraction, education, and corporate sectors. It all started in 2004, with a game-changing moment for the company...

The world is becoming more and more complex. We want to make life easier for our customers.

Elmar Hartmann, Chief Executive Officer of Gantner

- Portia Crowe

Welcome to Entrepreneurial Journeys, a podcast from Ardian for anyone curious about where growth is happening around the world. Each week, we speak to the people behind innovative companies building the future. I’m your host, Portia Crowe.

Have you ever had "one of those days" where you're running late, you rush out the door, fumble with your keys, and then eventually you get to the metro or subway and realize you've forgotten your pass — or worse, your wallet?

Imagine leaving your home and locking your door, and unlocking your bicycle or boarding the metro, all with the same digital key. Then you enter your office building, buy a cup of coffee at the canteen, put your things in a locker and find an available hot desk — again, using the same, single key or data carrier. At lunchtime, you might go workout at the gym, and later that evening, maybe you’ll visit a museum — all the while, still using the same data carrier to unlock each experience for you.

That's what it's like to spend a day with Gantner, an Austria-based tech-manufacturing company offering cashless payment, access control, ticketing, and software solutions.

Ardian invested with a majority stake in 2016, and since then, Gantner has become a technology leader in Europe by doubling its revenues and its employees.

In this episode of Entrepreneurial Journeys, I speak to Elmar Hartmann, Gantner’s CEO, about how a company that started out as a small electronic repair business has become a one-stop solution shop for clients around the world across the fitness, public attraction, education, and corporate sectors.

He started by explaining Gantner’s offer to fitness clients.

- Elmar

The world is getting more and more complex. And what we are doing to try is to make their life more simple. Then when you are the owner of a fitness club, I think the intention must be that you can concentrate on your business. What we can do is we don't just sell them a solution. We also service them. And for them, it is important that they have a trusted partner they can rely on to say, ‘OK, look, I have this issue or I have this problem and I'm looking for a solution.’ And then they have a one-stop shop to have one partner which can help them to solve the problem.

And additionally, what we are doing is we are giving them some insight and they have the information to have the data so they know what's going on, and it's not only for the customers or the owner of the fitness chain or the fitness club, it's also that we are making the life easier for the members. So it's convenient for them to use our system.

Gantner offers a range of solutions, including smart locks, access control and time recording, cashless payments, and software solutions for event ticketing and scheduling. The full Gantner “solution” wraps all these services into one package.

- Portia

And why is it so game changing for clients to have integrated solutions or to be able to go to a one stop shop to serve their needs?

- Elmar

You know, maybe the solution from supplier 1 is working. And also the solution from supplier 2 is working. But it can happen that the solution, both together, is not working. So and at the end of the day, then you have a problem, you’re calling supplier A and he is saying, ‘OK, look, my system is working.’ Then you are calling supplier B and also his solution is working but at the end of the day, you still have the problem and no solution. And this is exactly where the one-stop solution jumps in.

- Elmar

When you are the owner of a fitness club, what must be your goal? You have to focus on your fitness club and not that a system is running. So that's our job. And I think here exactly the one stop shop is a big advantage for everyone.

A game-changing moment for the company came in 2004, when a large UK fitness chain that asked for 50 Gartner solutions, rather than individual services.

- Elmar

At that time it was that this fitness chain was asking for 50 Gantner systems. And when we are talking about the order, we are talking about 50 systems for 50 fitness clubs. We are talking about the value of about two million. So therefore I was really thinking this must be the birthday of the Gantner brand.

- Portia

So when a user walks through a gym's doors, how different will the experience be if the gym is using a Gantner's solutions?

- Elmar

So I think it starts with the first step when you're entering the fitness club. You know, you have a data carrier and you can do whatever you like in this fitness club with the data carrier, which means you can have access control, then you go to the check-in area, make your check-in, and as soon as you have made your check in, you're allowed to do everything what you can. So which means you go to the locker room, you can change your clothes, and then you have an electronic lock with an electronic locker.

You can go, for example, to the bar. You can buy something or you can take a Coke or whatever. You can pay it with your data carrier. So everything can be done with one data carrier. And I think that's exactly what they are looking for, not to have the money back in, let me say, in your pocket.

No need to go back to your locker to grab your money, so you can do whatever you like with your data. Everything is possible and we're talking about access control and then we are talking about payment.

- Portia

A similar business model has been replicated across museums, water parks, university campuses, and corporate offices.

In the corporate world, Gantner has been enabling flexible working and hot desking in large office towers since before the pandemic even began. They offer clients electronic lockers, where employees can store their personal belongings during the work day and their laptop and professional belongings when they are out of the office.

- Elmar

It's not something that has happened during COVID. It was also, let me say, a trend which we could see a couple of years ago and people were really looking for, a kind of flexible working. You know, it's not the intention anymore, especially when we're talking about a younger generation, to come to the office in the morning and to work up to four or five p.m. and then they go back home. No, what they like to see is an office where they can have a very flexible working situation.

So which means when you're coming in the morning, you go to a locker, you can store your private belongings and also, of course, your business belongs, and then you are looking for a place in the company which is available to you.

One of the biggest advantages also for our clients, was, and is that they can say, ‘OK, look, when not everyone is in the company, when some of our guys are working from home or are visiting a client or whatever, then we do not need so many working places.’ So they really could save some money because they do not need to offer so many working places to their employees. So from my point of view, it is, and it was a win-win situation for both for the employer and also for the employee.

- Portia

Gantner has expanded internationally into Australia, the US, and [elsewhere?]

- Elmar

When we acquired this big fitness chain in the early 2000s and they were expanding to Asia into Australia, it was an amazing chance also for us to say, ‘OK, let us follow our client, let us support our client, and hopefully together we can expand.’ And it was exactly, in the beginning, you know, Australia is really far away — we are from Austria, not from Australia. But nevertheless, we said, ‘OK, this is a great opportunity to us. Let us use it and let us develop our system that we can support with our system, our clients’. And from my point of view, one of the main advantages our system has is that really, you know, when something happens, when something happens to the system, to our terminals, it's definitely easy to exchange it. So also our clients, when they have a technical person in-house, this person can take it, can send it to us, and we will send an exchange device and then they install it. And it's really done within a few minutes. And this is something which is definitely very important when you are going internationally.

- Portia

The company has also grown through the acquisitions of Syx Automations, a software, ticketing, and leisure management company, and Contidata, the German market leader in canteen cashless payment systems.

The Syx acquisition in 2017 gave Gantner access to the Belgian and Dutch markets, connecting it to new customers.

- Elmar

They are the absolutely market leader in Belgium and the Netherlands when we're talking about the attraction market. So they have a great understanding of what they are doing, of what the needs are, what the clients are looking for.

- Elmar

We have the advantage that we could sell our products in these markets we haven't been in, and the other way around. So this was a great advantage.

- Portia

Purchasing Contidata in 2020 enabled Gantner to add more technologies to its portfolio to complete its solutions and create synergies.

- Elmar

It is very important that you have this cultural understanding, people are speaking the same language when you're talking about what we like to do, where we like to go and what we would like to achieve within the next couple of years.

So back a couple of years ago, you were entering the canteen and then you were saying, ‘OK, I have three menus and I can choose what I like and then I pay for it. And then I take a seat and I can eat and then I leave the canteen again.’ So this works when you have a small canteen, you know, not a lot of visitors, but nevertheless, the world has changed. Now, what can we offer is you take out your mobile, you can see, ‘OK, today, what's up? I have, for example, a steak, vegetarian food, I can see what kind of ingredients are in, and so on.’ So I have to hold information on my mobile. I can choose whatever I like with my mobile, and I will say that I will come at, for example, 12h30, so they exactly know when you will come, everything is prepared. And also when you're talking about the payment, it's already done. So you can enter it, you can choose your meal because you know already what you have taken. There is no need to make the payment because it's already done. And then it's very efficient, you know, and you have all the information in advance.

The collaboration with Ardian as an entrepreneurial partner was was, from my point of view, really a true and a success story. And during the last four years, first of all, they supported us and they have been of the same opinion then us, that increasing the business is something very important, that expanding to other countries is very important. And also when we have made these acquisitions and, you know, they have really deep knowhow when we are talking about how to make acquisitions, they really supported us a lot. And for me, it was a great pleasure working together with them because they have this experience, they have to know how and they are a very reliable partner when you try to increase your business.

- Portia

Gantner's journey with Ardian has now come to a successful conclusion. In October, it joined forces with Salto Systems, a Spanish access control system company, for its next chapter.

- Elmar

Salto is a strategic partner and when I take a look at Salto they have a very, very professional product portfolio. And what they also have is a lot of international legal entities. And this is exactly what's very interesting to us. So number one is they are active in a similar field that we are. So when we're talking about technology, we completely understand each other, our products are complementary. They were really looking for products like ours. And what we can definitely do is we can use their international experience — we can use the international legal entities they have to increase our business. And from my point of view, that's exactly a win-win situation for Salto and Gantner. And it's definitely something which helps us to increase our business also in the next couple of years.

- Portia

Going forward, Hartman hopes Gantner will continue to grow, internationalize, and provide increased efficiency for businesses around the world while enhancing convenience for their customers.

- Elmar

Innovation is part of our DNA and we are always looking for something which helps us to make our system better and better and better. It means also that we can help our customers and our clients to run the business more efficient or in a better way or, let me say, more convenient for their members and visitors. And this is exactly what we are looking for when we are talking about data.

- Portia

Do you think society will accept this level of personal data acquisition through the services you provide?

- Elmar

At the end of the day society is looking very critically when we're talking about data and how data are used. So it's up to us that we are using it in a very serious ethical way. And I think then they will accept it. Otherwise not. So you have to be very careful.

And I think that we have to say that we like to handle data in a very ethical way. You know, that's something which is very important for us. But nevertheless, when we are talking about data, it's absolutely our intention to use this data to create a better system which helps our clients to run their business. And I think when they have this advantage of a better system, it also helps us to be more successful today and tomorrow and also afterwards.

- Portia

Thanks for tuning into Entrepreneurial Journeys, a podcast from Ardian.
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Entrepreneurial Journeys is a podcast for anyone curious about where growth is happening around the world. Here we speak with the people behind innovative companies building the future. They are entrepreneurs from across Europe, working in technology, healthcare, mobility, education, and more.
We'll hear about their greatest successes and challenges, how they weathered the pandemic, and where their industries are going next.

This podcast is hosted by Portia Crowe and produced by Louie Creative for Ardian.

Tune in on Apple Podcasts, Deezer, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts - and join us for an inside look at where the world is going next.

Our podcasts are accessible to all thanks to the written transcriptions of the episodes available on our website on each episode's landing page.